I made a show of putting my hand over Ana’s mouth. Cue: laughter. Derek left smiling.
I turned to exclaim see our Ana!
to my Mother. But Mother was gone. We heard the toilet flushing.
The unpacking began. Mamie managing the decant from car to house in a series of finger points; aggravated facial expressions and shouts.
But in the end there is nowt so invigorating as the start of a holiday – even after the journey from hell.
Nothing beats that fight over who sleeps where. The wonders of a bunk bed and a pile of second hand dvds. Or the investigation of nooks and crannies.
Mother immediately commandeered cleanliness and the adequacy of kitchen, appliances and bathrooms. Cooker (adequate). Fridge (too small). Number of pots and pans (begin worrying over dinner now).
With a few speculatory comments about the budding scrapyard, Dad settled into one of the deep and comfy living-room chairs and could be heard snoring shortly after.
Jamie and Ana went for an explore up the hill. Closely followed by Meg – who was in the early throes of panic attack as (horrors!) there was no mobile phone signal at the house.
Mother got out the bleach and J clothes and started worrying every visible surface.
I walked across the yard, away from the house and toward the wide, deeply sloping field we had skirted on the final stretch here. And stood breathing in the golden, sun-kissed air. The silence sung to me like a lullaby. And for just a precious moment I could swear I was touching eternity.
There follows the awkwardness of strangers speaking different languages. A slow thick muffler of voice: soft, lazy-sounding, losing vowel stresses; slipping and sliding into consonants. Losing syllables.
Mum gave up. I could tell from her panicked glaze-y stare. Dad hadn’t a clue what was being said and was nodding at the wrong bits.
Yoew foun’ us sen? said with a knowing smile…he’d been watching all the while we’d been reversing across the valley… App’n yoew wer los’…ee? another smile.
Reet gran’ de fereet. Tha’ mun cum Mundi. ‘Tit reined n reined… ‘ave thou bin long? In’t’car leik?
Deep breath, I thought. Listen. And watch. For the cues of smile and eye glance; the tilt of head. The Glottal stop.
I was going too fast. I was on Glaswegian time. This man, this gentle smiling man, needed my ears to slow down. Slow down. 45 rpm v 78 rpm…
But there’s an international language of smile which serves for the absence of known words. Buying time.
And finally…the steady even rhythm of meaning got louder…became clearer. Was heard through the din of unmet expectation. The thick soupy fog of ‘wrong’ syllable accent and lost ‘t’ cleared. I could see him. I could hear the words. The everyday greetings. The courtesies.
Bedrooms up there. Three bathrooms. Don’t drink the tapwater – it comes from the hills and isn’t safe. Here are the keys. Two sets. If you need anything we’re just there. Our lass n mesen.
We’d come to the end of introductions. There was a small silence. He turned to go. And out of the silence Ana piped up, Iz that man German or somethin’….
*apologies to my pals from Yorkshire….